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article imageReview: ‘La Jetée’ is a sci-fi education Special

By Sarah Gopaul     May 15, 2013 in Entertainment
‘La Jetée’ is Chris Marker's influential science fiction classic and one of cinema's most profound meditations on time and memory.
French filmmaker Chris Marker’s creative use of sound, images and text in his poetic, political and philosophical documentaries made him one of the most inventive of filmmakers; but he was also a brilliant storyteller creating one of the best pieces of science fiction ever committed to screen. La Jetée (1962) is a stunning film about time travel and destiny that will leave a lasting impression on audiences.
The protagonist grew up during peace time. As a child he traveled with his parents to a pier to watch the planes take off and inadvertently witnessed a murder. Etched in his memory is a woman's tranquil expression torn by the death of the man. Eventually war brought with it nuclear holocaust, imprisoning survivors in underground catacombs with a limited supply of food and other essentials. Leaders are experimenting with time travel in hopes of using it to replenish their supplies. Using vivid memories of the past, their slaves travel back and forth in time where they can affect the events of yesterday.
The plot for this movie may sound familiar to many because it was the inspiration for Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys (1995), starring Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis. The original film redefines the "moving picture," stringing together a series of still photographs under an omnipotent narrative. Using voiceover narration, music and sound effects, viewers forget s/he is watching a film in which almost all movement is eliminated; the interplay of audio-visual rhythms prevents it from appearing un-cinematic. In less than 30 minutes, Marker creates an engaging and attractive film that is thought-provoking and memorable.
Having first worked as a journalist and editor in the 1950s, Marker was as concerned with the word as the image. His sci-fi masterpiece is a collection of perfectly framed images ranging from long, dark hallways with a single light source to wide views of parks and jetties to close-ups of a variety of faces with varying expressions or void of any emotion. Marker demonstrates that a picture truly is worth a thousand words, using images as powerful as the words and sounds that overlay them. The narrator’s voice gives way to a heartbeat that increases in volume as the visual story increases in intensity.
La Jetée is being screened at TIFF Bell Lightbox as a part of “Remembrance of Things to Come: Works by Chris Marker,” a mini-retrospective of some of the most famous and influential works by the legendary filmmaker. The series runs as a complement to the free exhibition of Marker's photographs, “Memory of a Certain Time,” part of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival.
More about La Jetee, Chris Marker, Time travel, tiff bell lightbox, 12 Monkeys
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